James Gurney created a wonderful mythical land to rival Tolkien’s Middle Earth that was populated by stranded travelers and talking dinosaurs. Hallmark finally brought these settings to life on film with their popular mini-series. The ABC series that followed was unfortunately complete with several fatal flaws. The dino f/x were not really as good as we have become used to. The blurs and surreal appearance often takes one out of the experience. The actors used in the mini-series were replaced with virtual unknowns and a noticeable lack of skills. It was obviously a mistake to attempt such an ambitious project for weekly television.
The episodes each offer a Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 track. For the life of me I can’t tell any difference. Except for the heightened center speaker for dialogue there is no dynamic difference between the two. Expect nothing from your rear channels. Dialogue does come through with acceptable clarity and the occasional score seeps through with mixed results. No real extended highs or lows, which is disappointing with all of that dinosaur stomping going on.
Dinotopia is presented in the expected full frame format. If any series absolutely required a letterbox production, it’s Dinotopia. The picture suffers from extreme digital artifacts. The problem is they jammed 5 episodes onto each disc. That’s a lot of info in such a short storage capacity. Colors are usually pretty good for a TV series, but the compression problems take a lot away from the image.
Unfortunately the special features deal more with the mini-series than the TV show.
- “Discovering Dinotopia” is an obvious kiddie special hosted by a character (David Scott) from the mini-series.
- “Witness From Dinotopia” tells the same sort of information, but this time as if a survivor escaped from Dinotopia and is now giving his statement to authorities.
- An interactive interview with Zippo is also exclusively kiddie fare.
A Dinotopia game is simplistic, and a few Hallmark trailers round out the package.
A need to take a moment and discuss packaging. This is one of the most lame packages I’ve seen yet. The only insert is advertisements. There is no list anywhere of the episodes and where to find them. The plastic case is also a nightmare. Discs 2 and 3 are interwoven on the same side. You cannot take out disc 3 without removing disc 2. Then there is no place to put disc 2 while running disc 3. Dinotopia gets the award for worst package yet.
This is purely a rental. The best reason to check it out is that you’ll find 7 of the 13 episodes never aired in the US. I had much higher expectations for this set. I thought the poor picture quality during its ABC run was a broadcast problem. It wasn’t. If you loved the show or the mini-series, check it out. Just don’t carry any high expectations. My advice is simply to “Breathe deep”.